Healthy Choices - March 2012 - Volume 3 Issue 11


The days are getting longer again, and spring is in the air. Since this is a time of year for making a fresh start, this newsletter covers some tips for healthy choices in a number of different areas. There is new information available all the time, and I’ll highlight some recent information.


Overall, the latest evidence continues to support a diet that contains a wide variety of foods, and is rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

Confirmed! As I explained in an earlier newsletter (April 2009), it’s not so much the amount of fat you eat, but the type. “Low fat” is out and “healthy fats” are in. Guidelines from the American Heart Association include:

  • Consume a diet in which 25% to 35% of calories come from fat, primarily unsaturated fats.
  • Limit saturated fats to less than 7% of total calories.
  • Limit trans fat intake to less than 1% of total calories.

Good sources of healthy fats include liquid vegetable oils, fatty fish, nuts and seeds. Replacing saturated fat (mostly from animal sources) with polyunsaturated fat reduces the risk of heart disease. A review of randomized clinical trials found that those who switched from saturated to polyunsaturated fat cut their risk of coronary heart disease by 19% compared to control groups.

Monounsaturated fat, such as canola oil and olive oil have also been shown to have a variety of health benefits.

The old emphasis on low fat diets tended to lead to increased consumption of refined carbohydrates, such as sugars and refined flour. This actually led to increased risk of heart disease, not the opposite as was intended.

The fats that get the most favourable press are the omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish (containing EPA and DHA). For example, a recent report found that these omega-3s may help protect against muscle loss with aging. Another report notes that fish consumption could boost bone health, in addition to the established heart-health benefits of fish.

Eating fish high in omega-3s has also been associated with reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older (North) Americans. This finding comes from the US Women’s Health Study, including over 38,000 participants who were followed up over a 10 year period. This adds to earlier research reported in the June 2011 newsletter.

Vegetables and fibre have been linked to lower risk of diverticulitis in a study of over 47,000 participants in Oxford, England. However, in people with established diverticular disease, a diet lower in fibre is needed.

Fibre from grains has been linked with living longer, based on a study of 219,123 men and 168,999 women, aged 50 to 71, who were followed for 9 years as part of the US National Institutes of Health – AARP Diet and Health Study.

Keep healthy staples on hand. Ideally, we would always buy fresh produce on a daily basis, and whip up gourmet meals from fresh ingredients. But in reality, it doesn’t always work that way with our busy schedules. A next-best strategy is to stock your cupboards with nutritious staples, avoiding canned foods that are high in salt, and packaged foods with refined grains and sugars. Here are a number of good items to have on hand:

  • Arrow root flour is a healthy alternative to wheat flour for thickening gravies and sauces. Just mix a small amount with water before adding it to the sauce or gravy.
  • Barley – “pearl” barley, the most common type sold in supermarkets, is technically not a whole grain, but barley contains fibre throughout the kernel, so it still has plenty of fibre and nutrients. It can be used in soups and stews, or used as a side dish instead of rice.
  • Beans – Canned or dried are both good as long as you drain and rinse the canned beans to reduce the salt content. Beans are rich in minerals, B vitamins and are a good source of protein and fibre.
  • Brown rice is much healthier than white rice, and you can get varieties that are ready in just 10 minutes if you don’t have 45 minutes or so.
  • Canned fish – Solid white Albacore tuna is highest in omega-3 fatty acids, not far behind (canned) salmon. Be sure to buy tuna that is packed in water, not oil, both to reduce calories and also because tuna packed in oil loses three-quarters of its omega-3s compared to water packed tuna. Canned salmon and sardines are also excellent sources of omega-3s.
  • Canola oil is a particularly good choice because its omega-3s combat a substance in the blood called fibrinogen which is liked to thrombosis (blood clots) and inflammation.
  • Coconut oil is very heat-stable, which makes it suited to methods of cooking at high temperatures like frying. Because of its stability, it is slow to oxidize and, thus, resistant to rancidity. Coconut oil contains a large proportion of lauric acid, a saturated fat that raises the amount of high density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol. Most of the saturated fats are medium chain triglycerides rather than long chain, which, together with the high levels of lauric acid, make coconut oil heart healthy.
  • Dried fruit is a handy substitute to top your morning cereal or low-fat yogurt. Dried blueberries are particularly healthy and may help protect our aging brains. Be careful to avoid dried fruits with a lot of added sugar and sulfur dioxide, for example, cranberries have both – check the list of ingredients!
  • Green tea is rich in antioxidants and may help you to feel more full, and less likely to go for a second helping. Swedish researchers found study participants reported feeling more full when they drank green tea than when they drank water.
  • Hot sauce adds flavour without many calories or much salt – just check the label to be sure the brand you’re buying is, in fact, low in salt, e.g. 35 mg per teaspoon.
  • Lentils are highly nutritious – they are high in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals, including iron and potassium. They’re also convenient to cook – they don’t need to be pre-soaked like dried beans, making them handy for soups, stews and side dishes.
  • Low-sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock – These are handy for countless recipes, but use them in moderation, since even those that are lower in salt still have quite a bit.
  • Nuts and nut butters are good sources of plant omega-3s, antioxidants, fibre and protein. Just watch the calories and salt!
  • Oatmeal, especially steel cut oats, are very nutritious, but all forms are very healthy.
  • Olive oil may not have quite as many advantages as canola, safflower or soybean oil, but extra-virgin olive oil is still a healthy staple and particularly good in salad dressings.
  • Popcorn is a really healthy snack as long as you avoid the salt and butter. It’s a whole grain, and a new study shows that corn has the highest level of antioxidants of any grain or vegetable.
  • Quinoa is an excellent whole grain and makes a fast and delicious substitute for rice, and can even be used in paella.
  • Vinegar – keep a variety of flavours for adding to salad dressings, or to add flavour to side dishes. Apple cider vinegar helps to change your pH – makes it more alkaline, less acidic – and also helps with weight loss.
  • Brown rice pasta is a much healthier alternative to pasta made from refined flour, and pasta made with quinoa is also a very healthy alternative.
  • Whole-wheat flour – You can usually substitute up to one-third whole-wheat flour for bleached flour in most recipes. Also check your supermarket for new varieties such as white whole-wheat flour and whole-wheat pastry flour.
  • Wild rice – If you avoid wild rice because it takes too long to cook, look for precooked wild rice – it can be heated right in the package in boiling water or microwave, and served.


Walking remains one of the easiest, safest and cheapest ways to stay fit. It can also be a lot of fun with the right ingredients, e.g. a beautiful day, a good friend (or dog) to walk with, a scenic route. Walking briskly burns almost as many calories as running at a moderate pace, and confers similar fitness and health benefits. Even slow walking results in some health benefits, according to a new Harvard study of almost 40,000 female health professionals, which found that walking an hour a week, at any pace, reduces the risk of coronary artery disease. Longer and more vigorous walking produced a greater risk reduction.

There are many ways to get more out of walking workouts and to vary your routine, such as:

  • Try to walk for at least half an hour every day or 1 hour 4 times a week
  • Skip elevators and escalators and take the stairs
  • Get a pedometer and see how many steps you take per day. You can start with 3,000 steps and increase to 5,000 steps. 10,000 steps is an excellent goal to aim for.
  • Add some interval training – for example, speed up for a minute or 2 every 5 minutes.
  • Choose varied terrains. Walking on grass or gravel burns more calories than walking on a track. And walking on soft sand increases calorie expenditure by almost 50% if you can keep up the pace.
  • Walk up and down hills. Take shorter steps walking down hills – it can be harder on your knees than walking uphill.
  • Choose the right shoes. Walking shoes have flexible soles and stiff heel counter to prevent side-to-side motion. For normal terrain, any comfortable, cushioned, lightweight, low-heeled shoes will do.

Maintaining muscle strength is also extremely important, particularly as we age. Skeletal muscles reach peak mass by the third decade of life (i.e. in your 20s), and then begins to decrease. Sarcopenia means the age-related loss of muscle mass and strength. The good news is that researchers have shown that it is not a necessary or normal part of aging. There is much research currently underway, but 3 ways have already been identified to prevent sarcopenia:

  • Avoid excess weight gain. Extra pounds are a strong predictor of physical disability. Weight gain, by contributing fat to the muscle cells, may also inhibit muscle growth.
  • Remain physically active, and in particular maintain and increase resistance exercise, e.g. lifting weights.
  • Eat a varied and nutritious diet, including an adequate amount of protein together with whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Other Health Tips

Drink plenty of water every day – in general, I recommend 8 eight-ounce glasses of water (see our Newsletter April 2010). For a more precise calculation divide your weight in pounds by 2 and that’s the number of ounces you need to drink. For example, a person who weighs 120 pounds should drink 120 / 2 = 60 ounces of water per day.

Some things almost go without saying – do not smoke and avoid second hand smoke. Maintain a healthy weight.

Colon health is extremely important (see Newsletter July 2009). I recommend a colonic cleansing twice a year, and spring is always a good time as we make a fresh start.

The sun is getting stronger now, so be sure to apply sunscreen with the possible exception of 15 to 20 minutes a day for exposure to vitamin D. For maximum protection of your skin, it may be best to apply sunscreen all the time and keep on taking vitamin D supplements.


Since we are now posting the newsletter on our website, and all the information about the Nature’s Sunshine Products is also on the website, I am just going to list the products that I think you may find relevant to the topics covered in this newsletter, with a link so you can access more detailed information. Please note that you can see a wide variety of products under the various categories listed on the website.

For additional information, please email; or call Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic at 613.829.0427 for an appointment. Please continue sharing our newsletters with friends and family. Visit our web site at for back issues of this newsletter, for additional information about products and to order products, and for information about our Clinic.


  1. The new fat rules. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2011;29(10):4-5.
  2. Omega-3s might help protect against muscle loss with aging. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2011;29(4):6.
  3. Fish consumption could boost bone health. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2011;29(6):8.
  4. New clues to dietary defenses against vision loss with aging. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2011;29(5).:8.
  5. Veggies and fiber linked to lower diverticulitis risk. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2011;29(9):1-2.
  6. Fiber from grains linked to living longer. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2011;29(3):1-2.
  7. Give your pantry a nutrition makeover. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2011;29(1):4-5.
  8. Coconut oil. Wikipedia. Accessed February 24, 2012.
  9. Patil K. Health benefits of coconut oil. Organic Facts. Accessed February 24, 2012.
  10. A dozen ways to improve your walking workouts. UC Berkeley Accessed January 4, 2012.
  11. Your muscles: secrets of aging gracefully. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2011;29(3):4-5.


The suggestions and recommendations in this newsletter are not intended to be prescriptive or diagnostic. The information is accurate and up to date to our knowledge, but we are not responsible for any errors in our sources of information.


These newsletters will help you make better choices for better health. The choices that you make today can either have a positive or negative impact on your overall health. Begin by choosing better. It is a step toward longevity.


Ramila Padiachy
Ramila's Healing Arts Clinic